I’ve been doing a lot of interviews with companies that are selling renewable energy services, but what I’m really interested in learning about is how property owners are making their purchasing decisions. If we can better understand the customer, it will be easier to sell to them.

After I published some data on the Massachusetts solar PV market, Gary Best reached out to me with a few questions about the data.

Gary is a homeowner in Massachusetts that recently purchased a solar PV project for his house and then started a great website for other homeowners in Massachusetts. What’s really great about his website is that it’s a “homeowner to homeowner” site. He’s not selling anything. He uses language that he understand and discusses the research that he did when deciding to purchase his system.

I spoke with Gary for a little longer then 15 minutes and learn A LOT of valuable lessons that will be useful to any solar company that wants to improve their sales.

Here are the 5 major learning points from our conversation

  • Here’s a big learning point. Gary was just doing this to save money, it wasn’t about being green. He went with solar because he thought got a lot of sun and DID NOT consider other technology (geothermal, energy efficiency). However, AFTER installing the system he’s started researching other ways to save money in his bills. Solar is a good introduction technology, then you can sell other technologies and services!
  • Gary first thought about solar when he received a post card from Sungevity, but he didn’t end up buying from them for a few reasons. 1) They didn’t go a site visit 2) He wanted to OWN the panels not lease them
  • Gary said there was a huge distinction between companies that did a phone interview vs a site visit. He was much more confident in companies that actually came to his house. He could actually meet them, get to know them, and it gave him more confidence that they knew what they were doing.
  • Gary had a simple buying criteria, he wanted to get meaningful returns and he wanted to trust the contractor.
  • He didn’t go with a 100% lease because he would only save $30 per month, but he didn’t have the cash to purchase it outright. He went with a 3rd party loan that costs him 8%. He owns the panels, but has some debt on them. He saved $100 a month from day 1, and will own them in 7 to 8 years.

Here’s our full discussion

  • Gary, what’s the story of your solar system? Why and how did you decide to go solar? When did it happen?
  • Gary always thought his house would do well with solar, his house is facing south and he noticed he always got a lot of sun in the summer
  • He first thought he could do it when he got a post card from sungevity and looking at the numbers it showed he could save $30 a month. At the time, he thought that would great, $30 for free was great!
  • However, he started doing research remembering that “owning is better then leasing” and he decided to do some research to figure out how much it would cost to buy.

  • He did some research and called a few firms and found out that with owning he would save 10X the amount from leasing. He’d save $300 per month, instead of $30. The problem with cash purchasing is that their was no financing, you had to buy it outright with cash.
  • He decided to do more research and he got two more quotes from BrightStar Solar and Absolute Green Energy
  • All the costs came around the same price and it all came down to 1) who did he trust and 2) the best financing energy
  • He went with Absolute Green Energy because they had the financing he needed.
  • Gary had a pretty simple buying criteria.
  • 1 ) Go to the site and actually meet the client.
  • 2) Have options that will maximize how much the homeowner saves. Gary didn’t have the cash, but wanted to own the system so he could maximize how much he saved per month in the long term.
  • 3) Reputation and confidence is key. Gary wanted to get 3 solid quotes from contractors and learn more about how many installations they had done in the past.
  • 4) A quick response after the site visit was key.
  • Gary owns the system and got a loan from GE Money that he pays monthly, so he saves $100 per month, and will own the system outright in around 7 years
  • Question: Why did you decided to go with solar PV and not solar thermal, geothermal or energy efficiency?
  • (9:00) Gary didn’t even know those existed.
  • HOWEVER, NOW he’s started to look into other ways to save money. He wasn’t trying to be green but just saving money. He didn’t even know geothermal existed and now he’s research it.
  • After getting PV, what else has it made you start to look at?
  • Gary’s looked into geothermal, solar thermal, and the Mass Save Energy Audit.
  • He got an energy audit and he’s already saving about $1000 on heating and wasn’t expecting anything near that type of return.
  • What’s the story of MassSolarInfo? What did you create the site and what’s your goal?
  • His goal was to consolidate all the research he did and spread the information to other homeowners
  • He first started doing the research to double check the numbers for the project bids, because they numbers looked so good that he couldn’t believe them.

If you’re a EPC contractor and want to get listed on MassSolarInfo, just contact Gary through his site.

The most important thing I learned from the interview with Gary is simple, start to interview your best customers and learn more about how and why they decided to buy from you. Then, find more of your best customers.

If you want to get really good at solar sales, check out our solar sales training.